Backpack for a laptop

Beating the system - the cycling commuting section

Backpack for a laptop

Postby Max » Sat Oct 10, 2009 10:48 am

I've decided that I'd like to try riding to work once or twice a week. It'll be 40-50Km each way, and I need to be able to carry, as an absolute minimum, the following:

  • 15" Laptop
  • Spray jacket
  • Possibly a third water bottle (I have 2 on the frame, which combined carry 1.6L)
  • Yellow-tint glasses for low-light riding
  • In the winter months, arm and leg warmers, neck roll and long-fingered gloves
  • iPod
  • A4 notepad plus pen/pencil
  • Possibly a lock for the bike

I think I have two options. The first option (which I am 99% sure won't fly) is to ride my old flatbar bike, The Noble Steed, with panniers. The problem with this is that the reason I replaced The Noble Steed is because it's too big for me and the incorrect fit resulted in a hip injury that took months to resolve. As a test run, I rode The Noble Steed around 40Km the other day and woke up the next day with a dull ache in my hip. As appealing and convenient as the panniers are, I don't think I can ride The Noble Steed on a regular basis.

The second option is to ride The Beast, the bike that replaced The Noble Steed (a Cannondale Synapse 4 Feminine road bike). The Beast fits me perfectly and hasn't given me a hint of pain. Also, it rides like a dream. But The Beast cannot take panniers, so I need to come up with some other solution.

There is a third option, of course - N + 1. :lol: But I'd rather solve my dillema a bit cheaper than that! I'm starting to think I might have to ride with a backpack.

Does anyone have suggestions for a waterproof backpack that can carry my laptop safely, as well as my other crap? I know there's lots of options out there, but I'd like to hear from people who are regularly commuting with a backpack, and what they'd recommend. I'd also like to know if the backpack introduced any discomfort/pain by virtue of putting weight on your back.

Thanks,
Max :)
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by BNA » Sat Oct 10, 2009 11:47 pm

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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Richard.L » Sat Oct 10, 2009 11:47 pm

An expensive option is to get a high end surf brand back pack (Around $150 or mid range at around $70) THe problem is that they don't come in very reflective colours and abit heavy but seem very strong.

Im not sure if Brissie has the outlet stores like DFO or Harbour town but thats normally where you would find the $150 bags
The surf shops in your local shopping centre should stock the $70's and maybe the odd $150
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby webman » Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:30 am

Max wrote:[*]15" Laptop


I don't know if this is a major concern, but when I first started riding I took my cute little asus eeepc with SSD (Solid State Drive - like a usb key) with me each day. In the pack was also my 120G USB HDD, after a couple of weeks, the USB HDD no longer worked... I can only assume this was due to the numerous bumps, etc from riding. I've avoided carrying HDD's with me on the bike (although one time I did transport 2 x 1TB HDD's carefully, packaged with shipping foam/etc from work to home and then in-car to destination).

Does anyone else have comments on how well HDD's handle cycling/commuting?

Max wrote:The second option is to ride The Beast, the bike that replaced The Noble Steed (a Cannondale Synapse 4 Feminine road bike). The Beast fits me perfectly and hasn't given me a hint of pain. Also, it rides like a dream. But The Beast cannot take panniers, so I need to come up with some other solution.


I started by strapping things onto the back of my bike, or using a backpack, however, I quickly upgraded to panniers and absolutely hate having to carry anything while riding. Why can't your bike take panniers? I thought they are pretty much universal...

Max wrote:There is a third option, of course - N + 1. :lol: But I'd rather solve my dillema a bit cheaper than that! I'm starting to think I might have to ride with a backpack.


If the old bike causes you problems when you ride it, perhaps you should sell it and replace it with a better fitting bike.... Keep the accessories (panniers/etc) to use on the new bike...

Finally, carrying any reasonable load is going to increase the stress on your back, shoulders, etc... panniers are definitely more comfortable :) (at least in my experience)
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby simonn » Sun Oct 11, 2009 7:45 am

Possibly a third water bottle (I have 2 on the frame, which combined carry 1.6L)

Saddle Clamp Bottle Cage Mount

However, I would suggest that 2 bottles would be fine. There is water at ether end of your trip.

Yellow-tint glasses for low-light riding


Jersey pocket?

In the winter months, arm and leg warmers, neck roll and long-fingered gloves


Wear them :).

A4 notepad plus pen/pencil


Can you have one of these at home and one at work?

Possibly a lock for the bike


Essential. The thing about commuting is that your weekend ride nominated rescuer is probably on their way to work as well so if you bike becomes unrideable for some reason you cannot get rescued so need to lock it up somewhere and get to work using some other means. I have had to do this once.

Sorry, but I can't help with the backpack. But, can you leave your laptop at work if you knwo you are going to cycle the next day?
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby ruscook » Sun Oct 11, 2009 2:42 pm

Max I used to ride into Sydney once a week (past job), 49km each way. Work got me a STM backpack. These are industrial (well traveller, but not camper/hiker) strength backpacks with good provision for the laptop. Mine was purchased 4yrs ago, so I don't know if they're still around. Might be worth checking them out.

It has a couple of normal back pack sections AND a padded (with velcro strap) laptop section. I slide out on a corner once, landed on my back, skidded on it, and wore a couple of marks in the outside mesh section of the back pack. Laptop, no damage.

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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby gavinr » Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:26 am

If you are intending commuting regularly with a laptop on your back, you need to think about the strain this is going to place on your body.

Your discs and spine will be under a lot of stress with that kind of weight on them. Personally I wouldn't dream of doing this, I'd only do it with the laptop mounted on a rack or panniers behind me.

Sadly, if this isn't an option for you, there is no Medicare rebate if you buy a bike which does permit this. :wink:
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Fletcher » Mon Oct 12, 2009 12:40 pm

Max I'd hate to ride with a laptop, and have settled on leaving as much of my work stuff at the office as I can. I recently bought a messenger bag from crumpler, the Barney Rustle Blanket. I have carried about 10kg in it at times, but try to minimise it. I much prefer it to a backpack, as I perspire more than most. It's really comfy, but quite expensive.

If you have to take the laptop, I've seen a couple of options. Crumpler make a large messenger bag with laptop pockets in it. I think they call it The Complete Seed. I've seen a number of backpacks made for laptops, which would definitely hold all the stuff you're thinking of carting around. It would be a heavy & sweaty experience, rather you than me. If you go backpack, there may be one available with a ventilation void between the bag and your back, which would reduce the perspiration factor.

Happy hunting, I'd be interested to know what you decide to do.
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby provoked » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:40 pm

+1 to the Crumpler bags - I have a messenger bag that I sometimes carry my laptop with (laptop in a padded sleeve). I don't carry the laptop often now, but I use my crumpler everyday to carry clothes, lunch etc. I now lock the laptop at work as it just got to cumbersome (weight wasn't too bad, was just too bulky to carry around, getting off the saddle was harder too).

If leaving the lappy at work isn't an option, try the crumpler range (expensive tho, but I love mine!).
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby provoked » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:46 pm

Max wrote:I've decided that I'd like to try riding to work once or twice a week. It'll be 40-50Km each way, and I need to be able to carry, as an absolute minimum, the following:

  • 15" Laptop
  • Spray jacket
  • Possibly a third water bottle (I have 2 on the frame, which combined carry 1.6L)
  • Yellow-tint glasses for low-light riding
  • In the winter months, arm and leg warmers, neck roll and long-fingered gloves
  • iPod
  • A4 notepad plus pen/pencil
  • Possibly a lock for the bike


Also, each item above:
- Laptop - as mentioned above, I leave mine at work.
- I have a really light rain jacket, fits in a jersey pocket
- Got my glasses from Cecil Walker in Melbourne, BBB Brand, $25, 3 sets of lenses.
- Arm leg warmers wrap small, so no need to worry.
- I have a small pouch I found from a $2 shop kind of thing, 2 bucks, fits my wallet and iphone, and I close enough to my ear to wire up short headphones (don't wear them anymore)
- Keep the lock at work!
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby anth73 » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:52 pm

I've just been down this road and here's my experience:

1. Rack and panniers
Easiest on the back but the biggest pain in having to move my laptop and associated work stuff between it and my regular backpack on the days I don't ride. I tried a seat post mounted rack but it wasn't ideal. Also, I found the panniers moved around a fair bit. The rack and panniers also adds about 1.5kg weight without anything in them

2. Targus laptop backpack
Fitted everythng plus the kitchen sink but was really hot and sweaty.

3. Deuter "Cross Bike" back pack - the winner!
It fits a claimed 18 litres and is specifically made for cyclists. It has a back ventilation system that keeps you much cooler than a normal backpack. In it I fit my laptop (14.5" in a protective neopreene cover), shirt, tie, belt, notepad, sandwich and fruit for lunch, lock, pump, tube and tools. It also includes and in-built rain cover! Cost was $99.95 plus shipping.

Deuter also make a slightly larger version that is 22L in capacity.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Max » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:54 pm

Thanks to everyone for your responses so far!

Webman: The new bike cannot take panniers because it is a carbon frame with no lugs for attaching panniers. Unfortunately it's not a universal thing, at least that's my understanding. Otherwise I would transfer the panniers from the old bike to the new one and be done with it. Can anyone confirm that I can't use my panniers with the new bike? I am also a little worried about the bumpy ride for the HDD. My workmate rides to work with his Dell D420 (mine's a D620) laptop in his backpack, and it seems fine. Prior to that, he had it in panniers, and it was fine in there too. But I'm still a little anxious about it. :?

Simonn: Unfortunately leaving the laptop at work is not an option. Even when I'm not on call, I'm on call :roll: so I need to have my laptop with me at all times.

Ruscook and Fletcher: Thanks for the recommendations, I'll have a look and see what models STM and Crumpler offer.

Anth73: I've stumbled across the Deuter "Cross City".. is that the one you're referring to? It looks like it might be just what I'm looking for! What's it like to ride with? Is it comfortable? Do you get poked in the back by the laptop's hard edges? Does it come with the protective neoprene cover, or is that an additional purchase?

Thankyou to everyone for your ideas and suggestions so far. :D

Max
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby mikesbytes » Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:55 pm

I've been riding for 9 years with a laptop in a backpack. Some of the loads I have carried have been seriously heavy. The backpacks I have used are Kathmandu, the first one lasted 3 years and the second is still going at 6 years but is on its last legs.

If you go down the backpack path, don't be afraid to pay $150, a quality bag will last longer, be more comfortable and the weight will feel a little lighter than the cheaper ones.

A disadvantage you will have is that you will be hoter as the air flow has been cut from your back

Another consideration is that female upper body strength is typically 50% of lower body strength compared with male upper body strength which is typically 70% of lower body strength which in plain English means that us guys will find heavy laptop filled bags easier to carry than the gals. Some options are;
1. get 2 power supplies, one at work and one at home
2. do you need your battery at both locations? or get 2 batteries
3. put the data on a usb key and have a laptop at each location
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby gdt » Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:15 am

I used to truck everything back and forth. These days I have two laptops (a EeePC 901 at home for after-hours call-outs).

One of the reasons I got a alloy-frame road bike for my commuting was to allow a pannier rack without stressing the frame. I didn't particularly want to wear a backpack at the height of the Adelaide summer. I chose the Tubus Fly as it is a good fit to road bikes, has a skewer mounting accessory, and was far enough back to avoid heel strike with a carefully-chosen pannier. The Fly would be hopeless for touring (18Kg is not enough load, too thin on the top) but it's a nice rack if you just want a small pannier or two for commuting.

I've read elsewhere that people have used this pannier rack on a carbon-framed bike. If you want to follow that up, then I'd suggest giving St Kilda Cycles a call. They stock the Tubus parts and have a fair bit of touring experience. You're looking at about $250 for the rack + fittings, so it's not a cheap option but it is very much more pleasant than a backpack.
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby nickobec » Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:20 pm

As somebody who weekly commutes 42km each way and has been known to lug a 15" laptop on their back. I have one thing to say don't do it. The weight is a pain in the back and shoulders.

If I had to take my 15" laptop to and from work, I would use panniers.

I would also consider swapping to a smaller laptop like my 7" Acer Aspire if I regularly needed to carry a computer to and from work.

When I do the full commute I use a Crumpler Yee-Ross backpack, which does fit a netbook (but not a 15" laptop) in the space designed for a hydration bladder. My usual cargo is a change of clothes, a A4 notebook and food.

I have tried riding with at least four other backpacks, including a Targus laptop backpack and the Crumpler is cream of the crop by far. Especially on those hot Perth (or Brisbane) days, you don't get that build up of sweat.

I also have a Crumpler Part and Parcel messenger bag, which is over 4 years old and should survive another 4. I use it most days as my laptop bag when I commute to the train 3km each way. I find it gets to be a pain in the shoulder if I ride more than 20kms and sweat wise almost as bad as the worst backpack. I still use on occasions on the full commute if I have to carry bulky objects to or from work.

My current bike does not have pannier mounts, but I am in the process of building a commuter with rack and guards (and also a lightweight singlespeed without) to give variety to my ride to work.

Best advice I can give, get the weight of you, if you can move it onto the bike (like the 3rd water bottle, plenty of alternative mounting options) good. If you can leave it at home or work even better (eg find a refilling stop for water on route or like me keep 3 pairs of shoes at work).
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby anth73 » Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:07 pm

This is the backpack I was referring to

http://www.deuter.com/en/products/32078 ... 08_DEU.php

It might be a snug fit for your slightly larger laptop. a couple of slightly largewr option are shown here http://www.deuter.com/en/products/1270.php

I bought a neoprene laptop cover online for $25.

Hope that helps!
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby gdt » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:57 pm

anth73 wrote:This is the backpack I was referring to ...

If you want to see some of the Deuter range in the flesh, it looks like they are stocked by the various Scout Outdoor Centres. The store in Adelaide had the "Race" bike pack and they were willing to order anything in the catalogue.
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Max » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:35 pm

Thankyou, anth73 and gdt, that's very helpful!

I've pretty much decided that I'll try commuting with a backpack first, and see how I go. If it's tolerable, then I'll be riding The Beast to work with the backpack (leaning to the Deuter model/s at the moment, but interested in the Crumplers too). If it's just too much for my back to cope with, I'll have to go the pannier option. And since The Noble Steed is just not a good fit for me, that might mean going the N+1 option :lol:

This weekend I'll do a test run with the laptop in a backpack with some clothes and other odds and sods thrown in to simulate the weight. Stay tuned :)

Max
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Dan » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:26 am

Max wrote:This weekend I'll do a test run with the laptop in a backpack with some clothes and other odds and sods thrown in to simulate the weight. Stay tuned :)

Max


I've got an STM pack for 15" laptops - about $130 or so but designed specifically for transporting laptops - extra padding etc. The computer pouch is hidden away too, so it doesn't look like a normal laptop pack. Except for the branding 'protecting your digital cargo" plastered all over the labels... I actually travel with it too - very handy pack.
http://www.stmbags.com.au/products.php?id=30&name=medium_evolution_15&category=backpacks

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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Zynster » Fri Oct 23, 2009 2:33 pm

I've been commuting every day for the last 2 years with a 17" Macbook Pro. I use an Axio hardshell backpack which works brilliantly. Warning, they aren't cheap, and they've gone up 50% since I bought mine, however they offer both protection and aerodynamics. I originally bought mine for motorbike use, but it works fine on the racing bike. I've even had a minor off while wearing it. No damage to the laptop. I'm so used to it now days that it feels weird riding without.

http://rushfaster.com.au/product.php?pP ... X0879BK-SL

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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Emrik2s » Fri Oct 30, 2009 4:50 pm

You guys seen this?

Road Sack http://www.roadsack.com

I like that it's more than just a backpack, have used mine for motorcycling and it's stood up to commuting abuse.
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Max » Fri Oct 30, 2009 5:55 pm

Emrik, that's very cool!

I did a test run last weekend with a crappy backpack I had lying around. The weight was tolerable.

So, I ended up getting the Deuter Cross City backpack. It arrived a couple days ago, and I'm taking it for a test run this Sunday. I'll let you know how I go :)

Max
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby Max » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:56 pm

All in all, I'm very happy with the Deuter Cross City backpack. Good stuff:
  • It comfortably carries my laptop, bike lock, bottle of powerade, banana, spray jacket, stationery etc with plenty of room for more.
  • I thought the "Air Stripes" air channels were a bit of a gimmick when they were touted as a feature of the pack, but they actually do make a big difference. I could actually feel wind blowing up my back. Though my back was sweatier than without a backpack, it was much drier than with other backpacks I've used.
  • All the straps are adjustable, so I was able to make it sit on my back and feel "just right". The pack is very comfortable to wear.
  • Whilst is isn't indestructable, the pack feels "tough" and like it could withstand harsh treatment.
  • Lots of mesh pockets and zippered pockets. I felt like there was a place for all my stuff without having to be inventive.

Some little things I'm not keen on:
  • The pack is actually a touch big for me. But with a bit of tweaking of the straps, I was able to make it sit well without discomfort.
  • The pack sits high on my back, so there is a little interaction between it and my helmet. It's not a show-stopper, but is a touch annoying.
  • Also, it's a tad wide, so shoulder checks are a little tougher than usual. I got around this by "shrugging" a little to move the pack to my left a little, thereby giving me unobstructed vision of what's behind me.
  • There is no loop to attach a blinkie red light. I can't understand this oversight on a pack that is supposedly designed for cyclists.
  • Also, with the exception of a single logo, there is no hi-vis piping on this bag. I will have to supplement this with application of hi-vis stickers.
  • Also, I'm sure the pack could withstand a light shower, but I doubt it is waterproof in heavy rain (it should be noted that it does not advertise itself as waterproof, so this is not something I'm complaining about so much as an observation).

Whilst there are more "cons" than "pros" in this list, I think it's a great pack, and it suits my purposes well. If you need to carry a 15" laptop and other miscellaneous bits and pieces, it does the job well. I give it a 4/5. More high-vis stuff and a place for a red flasher would've bumped it up to 4.5. Waterproofing would've given it a 5. :)

Max
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Re: Backpack for a laptop

Postby anth73 » Wed Nov 04, 2009 12:29 pm

Good to hear it worked out for you. My cross bike backpack came with an inbuilt rain hood tucked away in the base of the bag...which was a nice surprise.
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